TKO THRILLER AT WEM­B­LEY

Joshua floors Kl­itschko twice in 11th round to win

New Straits Times - - Sport -

AN­THONY Joshua de­liv­ered one of the great nights in Bri­tish box­ing an­nals by stop­ping Ukrainian Wladimir Kl­itschko in the 11th round to be crowned IBF, WBA and IBO world heavy­weight cham­pion in front of 90,000 fans at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium on Satur­day.

Bri­tain’s un­beaten IBF ti­tle holder earned a sen­sa­tional vic­tory by knock­ing down the 41year-old for­mer cham­pion twice in the 11th and penul­ti­mate round be­fore the ref­eree stepped in to save Kl­itschko from any more pun­ish­ment.

What was hailed as the big­gest fight night ever staged in a Bri­tish ring, watched by the largest crowd for a box­ing show in Bri­tain for 78 years, lived up to its billing.

It was a thrilling con­test which saw both com­bat­ants clam­ber off the can­vas seem­ingly on the verge of de­feat and looks des­tined to be re­called as one of the great heavy­weight ti­tle fights.

Joshua sur­vived a knock­down for the first time in his pro­fes­sional ca­reer in the sixth round and looked close to sur­ren­der­ing his un­beaten record un­til his late bom­bard­ment forced the stop­page.

In a sen­sa­tional fifth round, Joshua knocked down Kl­itschko only to end up hang­ing on des­per­ately at the end of the round as the Ukrainian launched a re­mark­able come­back.

The vet­eran had even looked the more likely win­ner as he de­fied a 14-year age gap and was out­box­ing Joshua in the lat­ter stages un­til the Bri­ton pro­duced a blis­ter­ing finish to take his un­beaten record to 19 straight stop­page wins.

Both men had to dig deep and both looked close to ex­haus­tion be­fore the 27-year-old Joshua’s youth, fit­ness and sheer power took over in a penul­ti­mate round that sent the huge crowd into ec­stasy as two bar­rages sent Kl­itschko down.

“What can I say? 19-0, three­and-a-half years in the game. As I said, I’m not per­fect but I’m try­ing,” Joshua told the cheer­ing crowd from the ring. “As box­ing states, you leave your ego at the door and you re­spect your op­po­nent. So a mas­sive shout out to Wladimir Kl­itschko.”

“The best man won tonight and it’s a mas­sive event for box­ing,” re­sponded Kl­itschko af­ter his sec­ond de­feat in suc­ces­sion at the hands of a Bri­tish heavy­weight fol­low­ing the loss of his ti­tles to Tyson Fury 17 months ago af­ter an 11-year reign.

The mu­tual praise be­tween Joshua and Kl­itschko echoed the civilised and re­spect­ful way the two for­mer Olympic cham­pi­ons had be­haved in the build-up to the con­test but there was noth­ing civil about the bru­tal pun­ish­ment they dished out to each other.

Af­ter four rounds of feel­ing each other out, with Kl­itschko’s move­ment and Joshua’s power quite ap­par­ent, the crowd were not pre­pared for an as­ton­ish­ing fifth round.

First, Joshua launched a blis­ter­ing left hook and fol­lowed up with a flurry of punches that saw the Ukrainian drop to his knees and, when he rose grog­gily, take a stand­ing count.

Kl­itschko sud­denly looked old and the end seemed nigh as Joshua roared in to finish the job but that was when he found his cham­pion’s spirit in his des­per­a­tion, land­ing a big left of his own to leave Joshua in real peril.

The Ukrainian continued in the sixth, set­ting up his op­po­nent with the jab be­fore a huge right cross sent Joshua down.

He scram­bled off his knees but it did not look as if he would see the eighth round, un­charted ter­ri­tory for the Bri­ton who had won all his pre­vi­ous fights within seven.

Yet af­ter Kl­itschko had, re­mark­ably, looked al­most the younger of the two fight­ers in the stretch, Joshua demon­strated real heart to go with his power as he un­leashed a right up­per­cut that sig­nalled the fi­nal as­saults on the Ukrainian’s scram­bled senses. Reuters

AFP PIC

An­thony Joshua (right) throws a punch at Wladimir Kl­itschko dur­ing their world heavy­weight ti­tle fight on Satur­day.

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